Liquor traders in the Free State are set to pay more for renewal of their licences. The Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs has approved a 4,4% hike in the annual renewal fees to be paid by liquor licence holders in the province.Kgotso Tau, spokesperson of the department, said the new tariffs had come into effect on 2 December, adding that licence holders had until 28 February to pay. “On 16 November 2018 MEC Limakatso Mahasa published a notice in the gazette about an increase of 4,4% across the board, for public comment,” said Tau. “Comments received from stakeholders considered as industry experts, called for harmonisation of the fees of licences issued in terms of the National Liquor Act 27 of 1989 and licences issued in terms of the Free State Gambling Liquor and Tourism Act 6 of 2010 as amended. “After considering all inputs, the MEC made a final determination and published the final notice in the gazette on 30 November 2018, introducing the same tariffs for similar licences in the Free State.“The MEC is empowered, in terms of Section 36 of the Free State Gambling and Liquor Act No 6 of 2010 as amended, to prescribe the annual renewal fees to be paid by liquor licence holders in the Free State. In the execution of her oversight role on the industry, the MEC endeavours to ensure that there is always the correct balance between regulation and enforcement by ensuring that the applicable legislation is in line with other relevant legislation in South Africa.”Tau said the decision was in line with Mahasa’s commitment to trying to reduce the socio-economic and other cost of alcohol abuse crippling the society. He said measures to curb alcohol abuse was ongoing and undertaken in consultation with all stakeholders, including members of the community.Meanwhile, findings by the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (Sacendu) project have revealed a bleak picture of South African youth, indicating a sharp increase in alcohol abuse. It revealed that 80% of South Africa’s male youth deaths are alcohol related and drug consumption is twice the world norm. South Africa also has a rate of foetal alcohol syndrome which is five times that of the US’s.